Early, Steamy, Surreal

That travel alarm is really annoying with it’s inescapable bbbzzzzzzzz. Remind me again why it is blaring at 4:30am? Right, I’m staying at the Old Faithful Inn in order to greet dawn’s twilight near the Firehole Lake thermals. Watching as the sun rises issuing a challenge to the  23° temperature. Remember your hat and gloves.

It is the beginning of October with a 6:15am twilight, that first hint of promising warm sunshine. Happily it is October rather than June when twilight is 4:55am. A little perspective gets me moving. We want to be ready, camera in hand, to see the morning mist, the thermal steam, and their interaction as the sky grows light and the sun rises.

Bobby-sock Forest

We will leave the car at a pull out on the west side of the Firehole Lake Drive area and walk along the main road. May sound a bit scary, but the road is virtually empty of vehicles this time of day at this time of year. May even sound a bit boring, but slowing down and looking around soon reveals many features and consequences of thermal runoff that are unique and beautiful. It is all about fire and ice, boiling water and below-freezing temperatures, and the volcano beneath our feet that releases its pressure via thermal features: geysers, steam vents, hot springs, and mud pots.

The creek meanders through the lodgepole pine forest at twilight, but it carries the heat and an array of minerals that have been spewed from nearby geysers and hot springs. Because the lodgepoles have a shallow root system that grows sideways rather than down, it can grow in the shallow top soil endemic to this area, but there are consequences. As a tree drinks in the water, over time the silica in the water clogs the life-giving veins and the tree dies turning its base white. Now they are known as bobby sock trees and stand for years as testament to hydrothermal activity.

Bobby-sock Trees in Morning Twilight

Every bit of twilight is reflected from both the heat of the thermal water and the mist of the cold early morning dew.

morning mist

Autumn colors in the grasses invite a romp through the meadow. Hold it. With the dead lodgepoles ahead, the meandering creek behind, this romp could be foolish rather than fun. How deep and how hot is the creek and where exactly did it go once out of sight? Always a good idea to stay on boardwalks and roads in Yellowstone because seeing a meadow as benign or a challenge could prove deadly. Let’s continue our walk along the road and just enjoy the view.

sunrise thermal

The sun is up, but it takes time to win over the cold morning mist combining with the steam from the super heated thermal water. The sun isn’t quite over the mountains yet so it is time to head to our pull out along Firehole Lake Drive.

A walk up the road results in a spot without fog, steam, or mist where we can spin in circles and get a different view in every direction. The sun just peeking through the slit in the mountains . . .

sunrise FLDrive-0969

beautiful colors along the western edge of the sky . . .

sunrise FLDrive2-0947

shrouded areas still battling for warmth . . .

Thermal consequences

and, finally, the sun breaking through with the promise of a sparkling day.

sunrise FLDrive3-1036

This was such a beautiful start to the day, I think I’ll get up at 4:30 tomorrow and visit the wonder of fire and ice again, perhaps a little further up the road. Care to join me?


Evening:  I had to stop at Firehole Lake Drive one more time before heading back to the Old Faithful Inn and dinner. With sunset at 6:30pm getting dark about 7pm, I’m hoping a walk along the road will pay off with a gorgeous sky ending this beautiful day. Once again thankful it is October rather than June when it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. I’m getting hungry.

White Dome Geyser is surrounded by wide open spaces giving a beautiful view of the western sky. Surpirse! The perfect end to a wonderful day among the thermals of Yellowstone.

White Dome Geyser at sunset

Until we walk again . . .

3 thoughts on “Early, Steamy, Surreal

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  2. Jeff Hutchinson says:

    I remember the colors. Wonderful. Awoke one morning, walked to Yellowstone Lake shore. Covered in ice except where warm waters spilled in… on the edge of the ice shelf a large beaver, seemed to be knawing on…chunk of ice? Wasn’t sure…too far…even with binoculars.
    Loved it….Jeff

  3. Care to join you? Oh, yes, I would!

    These are some beautiful words: The sun is up, but it takes time to win over the cold morning mist…

    These are some lovely photos, lovely moments from Yellwowstone. Thanks so much for sharing your images.

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